Across America, school districts and state legislators are banning history books and giving certain students and parents unprecedented censorial power. Recognizing that the war on history is part of a larger war on democracy, many readers and editors are hungry for writing that honestly and provocatively engages with the past.
What makes for “good” historical writing, whether argument-driven or narrative-driven? What are the conventions of both argument-driven and narrative-driven historical essays? What makes an essay grip readers both intellectually and emotionally? What are the ethics of writing about people or events from the past? How and where does one publish an essay on history?
In this six-week workshop, open to writers at any stage, we’ll explore the path to publishing historical essays, from conceiving a compelling thesis or angle to making finishing touches and pitching editors. At the conclusion of the course, students will have a full, peer-reviewed draft, a carefully crafted and peer-reviewed pitch, a list of potential publishers, and greater confidence in their abilities to narrate and interpret history for a public audience. A guest editor will attend one class session to speak about their experience and what kinds of pitches and essays grab them.
Class meetings will be held over video chat, using Zoom accessed from your private class page. While you can use Zoom from your browser, we recommend downloading the desktop client so you have access to all platform features.
- Insight into the craft of public history writing
- Knowledge of various elements of storytelling
- Detailed and consistent feedback from idea to final draft
- 10% discount on all future Catapult classes
Coming to class prepared to discuss (short) assigned readings; submit one 300-500 word pitch; submit 1000-2500 word essay; read and comment on peers' submissions
Week One: History writing that sells
Week Two: Crafting an argument and pitch
Week Three: Research
Week Four: The first draft
Week Five: Revising
Week Six: Publishing
Audrey Clare Farley is a scholar of twentieth-century American culture. After earning a PhD in English from University of Maryland, College Park, where she taught literature, rhetoric, and composition, she pivoted to freelance writing, publishing essays on history and culture in The Atlantic, The New Republic, The Washington Post, Salon, Longreads, and many other outlets. An essay she wrote for Narratively became the basis of her first book, The Unfit Heiress: The Tragic Life and Scandalous Sterilization of Ann Cooper Hewitt. She is now working on a book about the Genain quadruplets, whose NIMH case studies transformed understanding about genetics, childhood trauma, and mental illness.
“THE UNFIT HEIRESS is a sensational story told with nuance and humanity with clear reverberations to the present. Historian Audrey Clare Farley's writing jumps off the page, as Ann Cooper Hewitt, once a one-dimensional tabloid fixation, is brought into full relief as a complicated victim of her time, standing in the crosshairs of the growing eugenics movement and the emergence of a ‘over-sexed’ and ‘dangerous’ New Woman. But most importantly, this book is a necessary call to remember the high stakes and terrible history of the longstanding fight for control over women's bodies.”
“THE UNFIT HEIRESS is the propulsive tale of a high-society scandal that triggered a high-stakes courtroom battle. It is also an illuminating exploration of America’s long, dark history of eugenics and forced sterilization. By braiding together these narrative threads, Audrey Clare Farley has accomplished the rare feat of writing a book that is as thought-provoking as it is page-turning.”
"THE UNFIT HEIRESS is a triumph of compassion, historical inquiry, and intellectual rigor. In her elegant telling of Ann Cooper Hewitt's story, Farley shines her bright, empathetic light on profoundly imperfect humans and the myriad, often tragic ways we grapple for fulfillment. At the same time, she renders with crystalline precision the history of American eugenics, insisting—gently, yet steadfastly—that we look where we'd rather avert our gaze. This book startled me, seized my attention, and summoned my empathy when I least expected it." -